What happened: Xavier 71 - George Washington 56
A lot of things went into this game, which was basically won in the first half and held onto in the second. The top honors have to go to Xavier senior Brad Redford, though. With a group of fans from his hometown of Fankenmuth, MI coming down to watch him play and collect the Sandy Hook jersey that the town purchased, Redford had his most prolific performance in his Xavier career. Brad went for 21/1/2 with a turnover and a steal on a jaw-dropping 7-10/7-8/0-0 shooting. Redford hit three in the first half and four in the second and was especially instrumental in helping Xavier crack the zone that GW threw at them when the Colonials were threatening to find a way back into the game.
Travis Taylor had only 6 points on 2-6/0-0/2-4 shooting, but he was instrumental in other phases of the game. When George Washington went into that zone in the second half, Taylor ran to the high post and Xavier's guards did a great job of getting the ball into the middle to collapse the zone. He responded with great ball distribution, ending the game with six assists and only one turnover. He also had 11 rebounds and provided solid post defense for the Muskies.
As has been the case all year, Xavier had one stretch through the game that almost undid all their good work. After getting up 35-20 on the strength of smothering defense and aggressive rebounding in the first half, the Muskies came out flat and the Colonials were energized. In the first 10:19 of the second half, GW got to the boards hard, slowed Xavier down on the offensive end, and went on a 18-9 run to cut Xavier's lead to just six. Semaj burst through the zone to hit a floater that GW's Lasan Kromah answered with a scoop shot. After the teams exchanged empty possessions, it was Semaj who jab-stepped, stared his man down, and jarred a bloodless three to give Xavier a nine-point lead and the momentum they had nearly forfeited entirely.
Speaking of Semaj, he was once again Xavier's best player. Despite having to handle almost all of the on-ball responsibilities, he still found time to go for 21/2/7 - albeit with 5 turnovers - on 9-13/1-1/2-6 shooting. Obviously, his performance from the line was again a concern, but he was everything the Musketeers needed him to be for 33 minutes on the night. Coach Mack said in the booth with Byron and Joe postgame that Semaj was trying to learn from his mistakes on the fly against an unfamiliar defense, and his stat line shows that he passed with mixed results but far more good than bad.
You guys all know Jeff Robinson, right? Well, I mean, can you really know Jeff Robinson? I'm beyond trying to predict what we're going to see out of him, but he was at the top of his game tonight. He went for 14/6/0 on 6-9/0-0/2-2 shooting and also added two steals and a block. Robinson hit three mid-range jumpers to go with some explosive finishing at the rim and - more encouragingly - seemed generally engaged in the game from start to finish. Also, am I insane to think that Jeff Robinson would be as good a choice as anyone on the roster but Brad Redford if the Muskies needed execution from the free throw line late in a game?
The Musketeers were great both defensively and on the glass in the first half, holding GW to 20 points on .333/.600/.500 shooting and dominating the boards to the tune of 22-6 while allowing just 1 offensive rebound on GW's 16 misses. Regression to the mean and the fatigue of playing two games that tipped 45 hours apart was always going to catch up with Xavier in the second half, and GW played better offense (36 points on .424/.125/.700 shooting) and killed Xavier to the tune of a 22-11 advantage on the boards. When the game needed winning, though, Christon and Redford stepped up and the Muskies did enough down the stretch to put the game away and move to 2-0 in the conference.
Odds and ends:
-Justin Martin went for an anonymous 2/2/1 as his minutes were limited by foul trouble, but he did block three shots.
-Xavier's 7-13 from the line continued a disturbing trend of crappiness in that department. Had Redford been merely human, that could have bitten Xavier in the rear.
-The Muskies' 16 assists on 28 made buckets were more encouraging, however.
-The big men for X did well to hold Isaiah Armwood to 6/6/0 before he fouled out.
-Xavier converted GW's 9 turnovers into 17 points, which is pretty darn efficient.
-Landen Amos' 21 minutes were a career high.
-According to Coach Mack, Dee was ready to try to tough it out, but the staff held him out today because his wrist is still sore. Mack said the situation is day-to-day, but they hope he's ready to go against the Bonnies.
(Dad was in an all-day deacons' meeting today, so I had to get his views on the game via phone call.)
-"That 1-3-1 was just asking for it from the 'Muth Mauler."
-"I never know what to expect from Robinson. His future is not in any way tied to his past."
-"I wanted to believe in Martin after the first four games, but I think he was just in the Robinson Zone."
-"Is GW even any good this year? Who cares; bring on the Bonnies."
It should be noted that Dad has six sons. He calls all of us "Fred" but has a dozen nicknames for Brad Reford. I'm not sure how to feel about that. Anyway, that's it from me. As always, stay tuned for Brad's narrative recap tomorrow morning. Xavier plays again at St. Bonaventure at 8pm on Wednesday.